Stores that hand out five gallon buckets for free

free buckets from sushi shop

We wrote an article back in 2012 with some suggestions for the type of places where you can pick up five gallon buckets for free. The general advice given there still applies, but it’s useful perhaps if we give you a list of stores where people have had success picking up five gallon buckets for free.

We definitely recommend getting buckets for free. You’re not just doing yourself a favor, these buckets you get for free would probably end up in a landfill somewhere, where they slowly decay. Nobody wants plastic to get into our environment!

To save you some work, we compiled a list of stores that hand out their buckets for free. We also have a list of stores that don’t hand them out. Some stores recycle their buckets, other send them back to the manufacturers, others might have their own reasons.

Stores that hand out free buckets

People have had success picking up five gallon buckets for free at the following stores:

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Tim Hortons
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Sam’s Club
  • Wendy’s
  • The bakery at Kroger
  • The bakery at Walmart
  • The bakery at Meijer
  • Safeway

Stores that generally don’t hand out free buckets

Some places where people did not have success picking up five gallon buckets are:

  • Cosco – Apparently they return them to the manufacturer.
  • Walmart – Walmart tends not to be cooperative when you call them, but they do have buckets available if you visit the bakery.
  • McDonalds – They said they don’t give them out.
  • Golden Corral – Apparently don’t get any 5 gallon buckets.
  • SubWay – Don’t get their pickles in buckets.

This list is not complete. Hopefully some of you who managed to get their five gallon buckets for free can share your experiences in the comments below, so that we can add to it.

If all else fails

We really recommend trying to get your bucket for free, but if the above stores don’t get you anywhere, you can simply order buckets over at Amazon for a reasonable price too.


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14 thoughts on “Stores that hand out five gallon buckets for free

  1. Find a local corrugated box company like International Paper. They have large amounts of 5 gallon buckets to give away. Most of them will be black in color, but they will be free.

  2. Most local donut shops will have plenty of buckets available for the asking. Around here you can’t hardly drive a mile without tripping on a Daylight Doughnut shop. They come with various fillings and icing in them.

    • I get my buckets from the bakery at the local Kroger affiliated store. They are not five gallon, they are 3.5 gallon, and they are food grade buckets. I prefer to get the ones with the metal handle (bail) as there is less worry a handle will break and the contents be spilled onto the floor. In my experience the ones that had chocolate frosting are difficult to clean and get rid of the frosting smell. I only take the ones that had white or glazed frosting. Some people are anal/adamant/OCD that buckets must be square because they stack better and take up less room. Ok, that is their preference. When buying buckets from prepper suppliers they pay more for square buckets than round buckets. I’m not that particular about shape, mine stack just fine. Normally, I line the clean bucket with a mylar food storage bag, and then put in about 25 pounds of grains, sugar or beans. I also store packages of other food items like cake mixes or bags of coffee in these buckets. When a bucket is emptied in the kitchen pantry I bring in a bucket from storage and swap lids from the empty to the full. This is so I can use the easy to open GAMMA lids for the buckets in the pantry. The empty buckets are washed out, aired out for a day or two and then refilled.

    • I got the smell out of mine, it takes a few days switching from heavy duty degreaser then to car wash soap then bleach. If you have a few buckets just pour them from one to the next or you could get a maleodor neutrailizer and spray it in then use a lid. I use that all the time since i live in a rual area & we get skunks that spray off.

  3. I’m over 70 now & some things in 5 gallon buckets are just to heavy for me to lift. Many bakeries will give you 2.5 gal. buckets that are much easier to lift. (Getting old is not for sissies.)

  4. Visit places where they prepare ‘bulk’ food, like hospitals, nursing homes, schools and food pantries most of them will have a plethora of 5 gallon buckets, both food grade and ones that contained cleaners… Just approach the food service manager and/or maintenance manager, and see if they will set them next to the dumpster for you to pick up…

  5. We were in Meijer today and we happen to see a lady with a cart from the bakery with about 6 buckets on it. She was taking them to the back of the store, so we ask if we could have them or even buy them for a dollar or two and she had to call to see if she could give them to us but was told no they had to be crashed down and thrown away. We just couldn’t believe that.

  6. I work for a restaurant in Canada…well, I’ve worked for more than a few restaurants. They’re usually disposed of in recycling pins right outside the restaurant. We really don’t care if you grab them from the recycling. I’ve grabbed many for myself and friends.

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